Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed. Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.

Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page

Loch Etive and The Sons of Uisnach
Chapter XXI - Lochnell and Glen Lonain


As the conversation was not well remembered on this excursion, one of the party was requested to write an account of a day at Lochnell and its neighbourhood. They had all heard of Lochiel, but who of Lochnell? Even the guide-books connect the name with the wrong place, namely, the land over near Keills, beyond Connel Ferry, instead of with its own region, surrounded by its own hills, draining its own fields, and sending its own river Feochan down to the sea at Loch Feochan. It is a very small lake, not a sea loch, for we may make the distinction, which, however, is not made in Gaelic, or even by the English, between lake and loch. The name is poetic, Locla-a-ncala, the lake of the swans; there may have been many such birds here once, but they are gone. Still there is left a pleasant memory of airy life, and the low land where the stream falls out of the lake is called Dalineun—the valley of birds. Here is the report of the excursion.

The road from Oban to the loch itself is steep, but it is good, and only about four miles long. To go by land to the other side of the loch would make four or five more round, so that it needs a good walker to traverse in a day all the ground to be visited. Glen Lonain itself needs some ten miles of walking to and fro if it is all to be visited. We preferred, therefore, to have a conveyance to take us to the ground, and to help us at need. As the party drove out of the glen leading from Oban south-east, the rugged heights showed themselves more than on the other side, and the strange shapes of the hills seemed more and more the playthings of numberless streams and violent submarine currents. But soon we came to a not extensive moor, and saw before us the isolated but warm-looking, because wooded valley, with its couple of good country-seats and the manse of Kilmore. The valley goes to the right, and below is Loch Feochan, the entrance of the sea; but we went to the left, and immediately came to a house or two, poor enough looking, and with a desolate kind of name, Cleigla. This name signifies a burying-place, and one of the younger of us naturally asked, "Why do you take us to burying-grounds? We never visit such at home, unless it be to see the tomb of a relative." The answer was easy: "We are here to see the memorials of the people who have long passed; history is among the dead; at home we live among the active men. Besides, here are our distant forgotten relatives." And here, certainly, there are few and scattered dwellings to see, but the name seems to indicate that many persons, living or dead, were brought here, if they did not live and die here. It is not hard to imagine all this pleasant valley filled with houses, small of course ; there is much good grass, and there is still some corn. People pass the road and see nothing, but Cameron stopped us at the little farm-house of Molee before arriving at LochnelI, and, walking to a field on the left, we saw the remains of a great cairn sixty feet in diameter. Now, it must have been an important person who had such a burying-place. Who of the men of this century, has such a great space to rest in? Such cairns are at first a dozen feet high or more, and yet the stones are gone, probably to build the neighbouring house and byres. The stones had been gathered from the fields, probably old rounded boulders, and thus the land was cleared ages ago, doing good to the living by remembering the dead. And now we have the benefit, because these fields show a good crop of oats. The people, probably, were not very irreverent when demolishing the heap in later years to form habitations for the living. Tradition has no knowledge of the inmate of this cairn, but an inmate there was, and, as soon as the stone kist was seen, no more theft was perpetrated there ; the nearly square box remains in the centre, formed of the best of the stones. The body had been burnt, and the urn containing the ashes had been removed and given to a lady living for the time in the valley lower down. It will go to make up some unknown collection, and people will say, "It was probably a Celtic urn." Who knows if the body was not bent up and buried, dissolved long ago, whilst the urn was only a water or food vessel, deposited by the friends, according to some ancient custom, and alone remaining undecayed. The kist or cist is small for this mode of burial.

There has been only one burial in this great monument of the Cleigh, and it makes us dream and express feelings that never can be old and commonplace to man who is so short-lived. The builders mourned over their friends, even if they were not so wise as men are now. They had feelings even more intense than ours, since they laboured so long to perpetuate the memory of one whom they loved or admired. It has become common not to mourn much for the dead ; this is a beautiful feeling when it arises from the hope of a glorious resurrection, but we can only call it brutalizing when it arises from an intense love of the present, and a removal of the lost from our minds as mere matter, the memory of which is an inconvenient interruption to the business or pleasures of life. In this sense these great cairns are a proof of a higher life than is led by the men who forget the graves, and rejoice in the heritage left them by the dead.

The party were pleased when they had only to walk a little farther from the road, and, near the rising ground, to see the base of another large cairn. This had been certainly surrounded by a ring of heavier stones, as probably the other also was. The boulders forming the cairn had been removed here also, and the stone kist remained; it was elongated, not square, like the former. This too had been opened not very long ago, but imperfectly, and on finishing the examination of the kist, some five or six years ago, a very fine bronze dagger was obtained, one of a class very rare. It is deposited in the Museum of the Society of Antiquaries in Edinburgh.

It is only of late that these things have been cared for, and we wonder that Scotland has been so little known. It is only now being discovered. The men in the glen did not know that such remains were not everywhere, and had no idea that these were interesting memories to all men, if not now foundation of legends for themselves, and usually visitors did not go over the ground, but stood at one end of a valley and, if they cared at all, only admired or wondered. Loudoun had been saying this, but Cameron objected, as he said that it was all well known in the Highlands once, but books made people lose their memories, so that this district just behind Oban, like many others, is a new region to tourists.

Our company had not far to go to meet another surprise. When on our way to the lake, a little north of the shortest line, was seen a double cairn. It seems at least to have been a cairn, and the circle is clearly defined, but the covering boulders are here also removed, and two stone kists were found, the greatest being in the centre, each with a megalithic covering. These are almost like the cromlech, as usually named, but being low, they are more like stone graves. The larger stone is the more remarkable. The great granite covering has been broken, and a part removed to form a millstone some time in this century. The burying-place is a fine one, both for strength and position, and the stones must have lasted for centuries, how long, as in other cases, we cannot say. The cairns just spoken of, made with the smaller stones, were from the bronze age; this grave being megalithic speaks of a ruder age, perhaps the polished stone, but everything buried had been removed. The spot is a pleasant knoll evidently Chosen for effect, and looking over the lake, as well as over the fine vale of Feochan, whilst it may be a cheerful spot on which to sit and hear the music in this "valley of birds." The men who chose it not only knew what had a fine effect, but they had a love of nature that is not exceeded now if we may judge from this. This grave is called the tomb of the giants, and of the Finn ; and people, wishing to be more exact, add the name of the individual, and even give it that of Cuchullin ; but it is to be feared that this will not stand, and will not even find a faint reason for its continuance. See drawing.

There is here a fine proof that the great stone structures which stand out were once covered with earth or smaller stones; when we look also on the monuments at Achnacree, where the debris of the cairn and its circumference are clearly seen, the same opinion is formed in the mind of even a careless observer. Still it is not a final proof; the circle may have been an enclosing ring.

It may be that those cairns which were seen are only the few remaining monuments of a great cemetery, and we can readily imagine many small ones to have long disappeared. Moving a little to the north, on ground a few feet higher, is again a cairn. In this case care had been taken to seek a separate elevation, and nature had assisted in the search. It is not, however, so easily observed as the lower, since it is at the end of a long ridge. This cairn has of late been opened, and a few trifles have been found in it—a piece of mica and a piece of flint were remarkable objects.

Both must have come from a distance, the flint from a great distance; both inserted as precious things. It had been opened by Mr. Phene, and apparently also at a previous time. The small boulders have not been removed, an opening only having been made down to the centre, which contained the square and small stone kist. This mound seems to be an eskar—a Celtic name for a small hill, and applied by geologists to a heap which ice or water has left in a forlorn and desolate way, and in very remote times, at the foot of hills or even in plains. They are very various in shape, and sometimes very irregular, winding often as streams wind, and this specimen has been supposed to resemble a saurian, and even to be a relic of serpent worship. As we do not know anything of saurian worship here, it is a fancy that we cannot accept, and in Glen Lonain there are other eskars far more curved than this. It is true that the serpent is among the Celts a very interesting animal, and stories of enormous ones, both on sea and land, exist among them as well as the Norse. They are found in carvings on stone and on metal. It was in Lorn, not far from this, where a man saw an eel passing by as he was fishing in the morning, and it passed all the time he was there, and when he returned in the evening there it was still passing, so that it must have been a very long sea-monster. (See J. F. Campbell's Popular Tales of the West Highlands.) Campbell thinks the serpent stories were brought from the Last, and this seems almost—I should say altogether—certain. This country could furnish nothing interesting about them. People are very much afraid to bring any traditions from the Fast to Scotland, although the very language has come thence. I would not even say that serpent worship has never existed here, but we have no proofs, and the stories have the appearance of having been old myths before they left their native Asia.

In relation to this I must give the substance of a letter from India by Dr. Mapleton, which would seem, at first sight, to justify some of the ideas connected with this place.

Copy of a letter from Dr. Mapleton, 1876:

"Close to the camp of Deolati is a Hindoo temple on a hill; the entrance faces the east; in front of the entrance is a stone column, about 8 feet high and octagonal in form, with one or two raised rings around it. It stands on a pedestal of four diminishing steps, on the second from the bottom of which are a number of pits.

"At the eastern side are several (about 8) very superficial pits, arranged in no order. At the northern aspect are only 3 or 4 pits, two being very distinctly jointed by a groove. There is no other mark on the whole thing. Thirty yards to the west is the temple, in a square court of burnt brick. This is about 25 yards square and has an entrance at the eastern side. Within the walls are the temple, a Buddha, a half Buddha, and also two small dome-topped houses, like dog kennels.

"I went round the outside of the temple and took a general look at it. I then went westward along the continuation of the hill, and noticed far away to the west an arrangement of peaks like this. (The lines are not reproduced.) I thought of Phend and the Glen Feochan snake, and really there was the same serpentine form of the hill. It made four curls, and ended on a hill on which the temple stood. I drew the attention of a friend to it. He said, with a hasty exclamation, "It does look like a snake too!" The hill is a hard sandy clay ridge, running E. and W. nearly. It is to one side of a small river, and is completely detached from all other hills.

"The snake is apparently from 10 to 30 feet above the level of the plain, and has evidently not been fashioned. There may be a backbone, but this I was unable to determine. I saw the three peaks before I saw the serpentine form of the mound. There are several hillocks of the same nature in the neighbourhood, but no other `megatheriums.'"

This letter has an interest in itself, but the accident of a curved eskar in view of a hill has no particular interest, neither has a cairn any special interest because of being here, unless we can show a serpent. When this was said to be a saurian or a dragon at Lochnell, we preferred to call it a fancy; we are disinclined even to say a word about it, since people may imagine there is a something, whereas there is nothing to reason upon. The spine was said to be indicated by a row of stones as vertebrae, but this was sought immediately on the supposed discovery being made, and the conclusion drawn was that such a line was entirely imaginary. Still dragon myths abound in the East and in Greece, although we have looked in vain for this mode of embodiment out of America. The serpents carved on stones in Scotland are not saurians or dragons, they are more like eels.

Having seen these cairns, we crossed over to the islands, of which there are two in Lochnell. One of these is very little and near the outlet of the loch, with two small trees upon it. No one would think it to have been inhabited. It is nearly round, not much larger than a good-sized cottage. It is surrounded by stones large enough to be difficult to lift, and in some places showing themselves to have been put together by art. It would appear as if there had been a pretty firm wall all round—very firm it could not be without mortar or heavier stones. Three or four feet within the range of stones is a raised turf mound, as if this had been the wall of the house; the centre of the space was rather higher than the rest, and there we expected a fire-place to be found. By digging about three feet and a half, the ashes of peat were obtained, bones, charcoal, and nuts. A very small hole was made, as we had not then received liberty to dig. We were satisfied that this had been a lake-dwelling, and that it had been defended by a wall. Advantage seems to have been taken of a shallow place, and stones must have been carried to it. It may turn out that there is a wooden foundation. It is not easy to see by what means the covering of earth now over the floor was so much raised. The water of the lake forms little or no deposit in summer; art rather than natural circumstances may have raised the soil. The bones here were split as at the lake-dwelling in the moss.

As it is probable that these lake-dwellings existed till a very late date, we may find some clue to the inhabitants of this lower one, as we supposed ourselves to have done in the case of Somerled's Loch.

Stories had been told us of a buried city which was submerged by the floods that made the lake, and of which parts could be seen on a clear day. It was also said that there, on the larger of the islands of this loch, the Campbells of Lochnell lived in former times. Their estate has the name of Lochnell, and from it they take their present territorial name always used in the Highlands. This island is at the upper end of the lake, and cannot be approached without a boat. The number and size of the stones upon it show that some building had been there, but there is no surface proof that a large well-constructed house existed. There are trees upon it. The stones must have been carried to the island and they are all too similar to be natural. However, there was a natural island there or a shallow place, as the depth and distance from the shore prevent us thinking of such a great undertaking as the manufacture of one from the average lake bottom upwards, whilst some of the rocks seem in situ.

There is no boat to be hired on the loch, but as we were fortunate enough to get the use of the private one, a visit was made to this old haunt of the Campbells, on the way to Glen Lonain, instead of going round by the road, which involves a very steep climb and a very deep descent. Passing from the island we crossed to the upper end of the lake, and landed upon a very flat piece of ground, which rises gradually among knolls of a shape peculiar to the Oban district.

Legends of Diarrnid—As the weather and season favoured we came amongst pleasant corn fields on the farm of Sron-t-Soillear. One might expect romance in this upper end of Lochnell, as it was abundant at the lower, and there we saw a tall pillar—one of the finest in Scotland. But our party preferred to go straight on to the farm-house to ask questions and to learn the way. It was melancholy to think that no native guide was to be had; all the inhabitants around were strangers lately come; not a soul was found to belong to the land. Before coming to the house a great circle was seen made of boulder stones, as all those of this district are. The stones are doubled irregularly on the west side. In Aberdeen and Kincardine the custom is to lay a great stone on the southerly side. There are said to have been other circles destroyed here, and indeed this isolated valley of Lochnell is the very place for men to have enjoyed peace when commotions existed on the shores, when the "black Danes" harried the land or the fair Norse came for plunder. Every mound here has an artificial look, and one almost expects to find history at every step. This circle, which remains entire, is 6o feet in diameter, a very favourite size, and one that seems to have been chosen for a reason. We saw it lonely among hay, itself enough to give interest to the whole valley even had the sun been absent. (See drawing.)

A couple of fields off, after passing along graceful mounds and good grass, was seen Diarmid's pillar (Clash Dhiarmaid or Carrach Dhiarmaid). And now we were in the very midst of a land of legends. No story is more persistently told than the story of Diarmid; no story has the places connected with every transaction more minutely given ; but, unfortunately, some half dozen places claim the originals. The story itself is told in Irish literature, and some old MSS. give it at great length, but the writing is modern compared with the events which go back to Finn or Fingal, a little before the arrival of St. Patrick in Ireland.

Grainne was the daughter of Cormac MacArt, the splendid king, the judge, warrior, and philosopher, who reigned at Tara, and who was the grandson of Conn of the hundred battles, and in whose time the world was all goodness, the land fat and fruitful, the sea productive—no killings, no plunderings — everywhere peace and happiness. Grainne was espoused to Fingal, but compelled Diarmid to run away with her; this seems to have been according to usage in Old Ireland; Deirdre, the great beauty, did the same. Fingal pursued them, and the adventures make a long story; however, when they met, it was agreed to have a boar hunt on I3en Gulbain, as if the offence had not been deadly. Here Fingal sought some new cause of quarrel. Diarmid killed the boar, and was asked to measure it; he did so from snout to tail, but he was desired to measure it from tail to snout ; he did so, and the bristles went into the vulnerable part in his heel and poisoned him. Some say the bristles were poisoned; but the longer account mentions Diarmid as having leapt up on the boar and sat upon it looking backwards, whilst the beast ran clown the hill, jumping over streams rapidly, and trying to throw him off, putting the hero in a not very dignified position. It then turned up Ben Gulbain again, and at last succeeded in tossing and also wounding Diarmid, whilst soon he killed it. And now he was dying of his wound and nothing but fresh water could help him. Fingal pretended to bring some, but always spilt it, and Diarmid died.

The account we got at Lochnell was that the magic water must be brought in the hands of the most beautiful women, to make the cure certain ; but the ladies could not manage to bring any—the way was long and rough and the day was hot, so that before they arrived their hands were empty.

It is said in Ireland that Diarmid was buried on the Boyne. The Irish account does not say that he came to Scotland: the publication of the Ossianic Society chiefly is alluded to. Here at Lochnell is a pillar called after him and a grave beside it. The pillar is about 12 feet high, rough, and seems as if squared artificially. The grave or small stone circle has twelve stones—boulders. None of the farmers cared much for Diarmid, since all were strangers; but when some persons lately were looking for a stone kist in this place which is called his grave, a poor woman going by said, in great anxiety, "Oh, oh, they are lifting Diarmid." He is not forgotten yet. (See Fig.)

There are many names here connected with the great boar hunt. The parish itself has been called Muckairn, as if meaning the Boar's Cairn, but Mr. Duncan Clerk tells me that it really was Magh Chuirn—the field of cairns—from the great number that were at the eastern part of it, not far from Taynuilt. The farm next the pillar is Tor an Tuirc—the boar's hill. A shepherd coming down the hill and asking for sheep was told in our hearing to take them up Ben Gulbain; so here is the classic name in common use. Up this hill is a well called Tobair nant bas toll—the well of the empty palms. This is a memory of the hands coming down dry to poor Diarmid. On the slope is Gleann nain Fuath—tile glen of spirits. Fuath, in the singular, also means hate or spite, and Gleann na Fuath would be the glen of spite, referring to Finn's conduct here: his proverbial nobleness did not shine at the death of Diarmid.

We were troubled about the name Glenlonain. One of us wished it to mean the meadow of blackbirds—is not Ion a blackbird? and this fits beautifully in with the vale of birds; another of us laughed at this, because the plural could not be loran, and laughed for the same reason at lone, which means anger; rejecting the word loran — a prattler, and giving loinain—a passage for cattle. This is probably correct. But, says a third, here is the farm Sron-t-Soillear—the nose of light, just at the opening of the glen, which is narrow at first, and might once have been dark with woods, from which the travellers emerging would better see the light of day. This led to another opinion—viz., that as the Dun beyond Cleinamacree had a beacon or light upon it, and Dun Tanachan had fires upon it, as the name would indicate, the nose of light would be the first point of seeing the former, whilst the valley itself would be called Gleann Lonnain—the vale of brightness—a word in the Irish dictionaries, if left out of the Scottish. The vale is not so very bright now, but the mystic fires might brighten it to the heart. If any one sneers, let him better explain these concurring names, said our comrade thoughtfully.

Loinean means also a little meadow. The glen opens into the plain by a narrow passage little wider than the stream that rushes through. Drum na Sheilg—the height of the hunt, is, we suppose, a part of lien Gulbain, and Alit-ath-Cormaic reminds us that Cormac mac Airt was the father of Grainne, concerning whom the dispute was. But we may be met again by some one saying that there was a St. Cormac in Argyll. Even with this fact, the proximity makes the name telling.

With all these names we might say, "surely this was the real spot of the hunt.'' Can so many coincidences be possible when it is not the actual place? And yet we go to Lochgilphead and we are shown a hill with a claim of a very decided kind; we go also to Glenshee in Perthshire and find another Ben Gulbain and stones of Diarmid; and Ireland has at least one claim—Ben Boolban in Sligo. So what are we to say? We can only say that we cannot account for so many places claiming to have been the scene of the boar hunt ; but it may be that, like children at play, inhabitants of several places chose representative spots for the names. Nothing is more probable than a quarrel at a boar hunt.

J. F. Campbell, of Isla, would lead us to think of an Aryan myth, and we, remembering one of our early favourites, think of that beautiful lamentation of Bion-

"I lament, I lament for Adonis, the beautiful Adonis is dead—
The beautiful Adonis is dead, and the Loves call, Ai, ai."

These words are a more refined expression of sorrow than we have in our story; but why go so far for a hunt when boars were as common here as in Greece? And yet there are coincidences—the extreme beauty of Diarmid, for example, and the only spot where lie could be wounded being on the heel where the bristle entered, suggest ideas which might be originally importations from Greek. But even these ideas might rise in thousands of minds. Still there is another curious fact: Diarmid is called O'Duibhne, said to be after his father, but this word is pronounced Odoonye by some, and it is very like Adonis.

Nevertheless, with all these possibilities, there is no reason to doubt the existence of a Celtic Diarmid, simply because all the incidents are human, and most of them occur very frequently. When two somewhat similar stories are told, the circumstances of one are apt to become mixed with those of the other, a very common occurrence in daily life. This would readily account for Greek ideas being added to the Celtic story, which has become much more complex. There is also found a warning to those who too easily indulge in the theory of the single origin of ideas, since man's constitution and the phenomena of nature produce of necessity the elements of many tales in repetition in a continuous stream.

The Campbells are said to have descended from Diarmid. They are called the race of Diarmid, whose sons are rather mysteriously disposed of in the story. The Campbells are by others said to be named from "Campo belle"; but this Italian origin is less probable than a French one would be. It is certainly curious that whilst their name means, as sounded in Gaelic, crooked month, Cam bcul, their neighbours should be Camerons, cam (s)hron (the s is not sounded), crooked nose. These look like two nicknames of rivals given by some contemptuous enemies. The coincidence is remarkable, and tells strongly, but not decisively, against the Italian origin.

The Campbells have a boar's head with a stone in the mouth as crest. A writer in The Highlander, of December Est, 1877, by nom de plume Coire na Sith, says that, it arose from an incident in the life of Donnachadh-an-aigh, Duncan the happy, a son of Campbell of Lochow, in the time of James the Second. This man chose as a hiding place a cave near Lochlomond: not far from him the road became impassable because of a wild boar which troubled so many people that the king offered a pardon to the man who would kill it. Campbell threw a stone into its mouth and then stabbed it. This procured his pardon, and along with the lady with whom he had eloped, and with whom he was hiding, he went as ambassador to Rome. lie never returned, but he founded an abbey at Kilmun in honour of St. Mun, and for the soul's health of the donor and his family. At Kilmun is the burying place of the chiefs of the Campbells, the Dukes of Argyle.

The most romantic and interesting explanation of the origin of the crest with the boar's head is certainly that connected with Diarmid O'Duibhne.

Campbell says (p. 54, vol. III. of West Highland Tales), "I am inclined to believe that there was a real Diarmid, in whose honour poems have been composed by many bards, and sung by generations of Scottish Highlanders, and that to him the attributes of some mythic Celtic Diarmid have been attributed." This seems a reasonable conclusion, after careful weighing of all the evidence. Perhaps it would be better to say that every story becomes mythic when the fancies or reasonings of men are applied to it long, and the mythic quality is no proof of non-reality, but only proves age and the play of tradition.

It was thought well to walk up from the more interesting pillar of Diarmid to a knoll on the side of the hill, a place called Cleidh-na-h-annait. It is an old burying-ground, walled round, and remarkable for having two small cairns in it, as if it were a meeting of heathen and Christian habits, that is to say, if cairns were always heathen. The proverb of "adding a stone to his cairn " shows the custom to have come down to the later times ; and the habit really does exist, we are assured, in the west of Ireland now. It is not certain that it has gone out of Scotland. A man now living told one of us that when a boy he used to throw a stone on a cairn, by his father's wish. Annoit, in O'ReiIly's Irish Dictionary, is explained to be "one's parish church." Mr. Duncan Clerk, of Oban, says the word is always connected with sacred places. Mr. Skene (vol. II., Histo;y of Ancient Alban, p. 70) says, " The Annoit is the parent church or monastery, which is presided over by the patron saint, or which contains his relics." Perhaps there was a church here, and these memorials would point to a very early one. Indeed, we may be sure that there was one, and we were sorry that we could not find any special name. If we go up the narrow mouth of Glen Lonain we come to a small knoll with a stone, on one side of which is a cross, on the other a floral ornament, with an elongation below not very definitely seen. This suggests mixed Christian times. The late Dr. Charlton (Newcastle-on-Tyne), to whom a drawing was shown, thought it of the eleventh century at the earliest. The mound is called Cnoc-na-Croise—knoll of the cross. (See Fig. facing p. 225.)

Going farther on we come to a mound on the right, which is called Cnoc-an-t-sagairt, or knoll of the priest, and beside it there is one called Cnoc-an-t-scomar, or knoll of the chamber; why so we could not tell, it seemed to contain a rock in its natural position instead of a chamber. These three mounds are nearly opposite Cleigh-na-mac-Righ (Clcinamacry) farmhouse.

Glen Lonain grows grass and corn and peat, and Lochnell may be said to be the lower part, or rather the middle, since we must follow it along the Feochan before we reach the sea. It was once full of little houses, but now it has only a couple of farms and one cottar, an old woman. The old inhabitants have been the victims of improvement. Cameron said that if Maghcarn or Chuirn—meaning the field of cairns —is not the origin of the name of the parish, and if it is not called from the muc or boar which Diarmid slew, this similarity of sound may be only one of the curious coincidences of which we have so many in the strangely supple Gaelic tongue. (The old woman is now dead.)

Although the muc was a famous animal among the Celts, eaten, and it is said worshipped as well as hunted, its use as food went out of fashion in Scotland, probably in Puritan times, for reasons derived from the Old Testament, and with it also went the eating of "things strangled and of blood."

Passing the house of Cleinamacry we come to an elongated rectangular enclosure with signs of a circular mound having been round it 6o feet in diameter. The rectangle is about 30 feet long and 10 wide; little more than an outline remains. The rectangular form may denote a certain advance in building. It is said that the king's children from Dunstaffnage were buried there. Cleinamacry means the burial place of the king's children. But referring to Mr. Skene we read of no kings at that place. Still, king was a word that was used more readily in earlier times, and there might be many chiefs who would like the spot. I do not know if the chiefs of the Macdougalls were ever called Righ.

We decided not to go down Glen Feochan this year, even to see Dun Mac Raoul on the shore of Loch Feochan South, just as it begins to join the sea, or to see Dun Eidin, which must be mentioned as a very curious part of a name, in a district by no means connected with Saxons, and yet having the same name in it as Edinburgh. Is this a memorial of Aidan the Dalriad, whilst Edinburgh is of Aeduin the Northumbrian king?

Store Cist at (Avile) Athbhile.—At Athbhile, about a mile above Cleinamacry in Glen Lonain, there is a bridge over the stream; as the name shows, there was a ford there. A short distance from the bridge, and in a field higher up the stream, is a mound which appears to be natural. We were shown a flat stone there ; it was discovered not long ago by Donald Sinclair, who, as his son avers, took good care not to disturb it. Here was an opportunity, then, of seeing a place opened up for the very first time. It goes by the name of Kist a-Chlachan. The slab was raised with great difficulty by the strength of at least three pairs of strong arms, but the hole was found nearly filled with earth, in which were the skeletons of several rabbits. There was a small hole in the side under the slab affording entrance. The kist was 36 inches long, 20 broad, and 25 deep. There were a few small pieces of bone mingled with the earth, but merely such as weighed only a few grains. The mound was probably an eskar to begin with, a deposit caused by earth and floods. Double burials, one over another, arc not found in these regions, to account for the height. Although nothing artificial was found within the kist, it was large and important looking, and the spot itself interesting.

We may go up Glen Lorain. We may pass Duntanachan, and up to Lairg and down again to Taynuilt, from which we may, if we wish, return to Oban; or we may turn back past Diarmid's pillar, and onward till we reach the strait road to Connel Ferry; this we did and enjoyed a pleasant and varied scene, neither very rich nor wild, but one that certainly was once richer in man and joyful life. The curse of wealth has come over the country, the little crops have been despised as trifles, and the men who fed upon them have not been considered. One civilization refuses to tolerate another; and ours is slightly Roman, we make a desert to produce refinement. These men would have suffered less had they been expelled in fighting, but they were often smoothly turned away from their own; they were betrayed with a kiss.

Mr. Clerk, of Oban, mentions that there are several names in the upper part of Glen Lonain connected with the hero Gaul or rather Guill. We did not follow the fortunes of the Fingalian heroes; their story is difficult to disentangle, and we have no history of them except from Ireland; but we must look, by Mr. Clerk's desire, at a very beautiful poem given in Galic Antiquities by Dr. Smith, of Campbelton, in which Gaul's death is described. It is curiously entitled in Gaelic, Tiomnadh Ghuill, the testament of Gaul, but it is generally called the Death of Gaul. At the top of Glen Lonain is a wooded height called Bar Ghuil, or the height of Gaul, or Barguillan, an for river being added. A little to the north is another wooded height, which is called Barran-a-chuil, between them is Tomghuil called Tom-na-Guille. These latter two have the same meaning as the former. Mr. Clerk puts Gaul's first battle at Ichrachan, between the Awe and the Nant, outside of Glen Lonain, but not far off, and mentions the numerous cairns that used to be there before they were levelled by the "iron" company from England. These are the cairns alluded to as having given the parish its name. Morni is said to have been Gaul's father, and Mr. Clerk considers that his dwelling was at Strumonadh at the top of Glen Lonain. This word, meaning a mountain stream, is not very precise.

The valley in the poem keeps up its character for birds we have seen that swans gave a name to the lake below, and birds to a farm, or part of the valley, if not to the valley itself; and in the "Death of Gaul" it is beautifully said: "The birds of summer from their distant land shall first perch on Strumon's oak; far away they shall behold its green beauty. The ghost of Gaul shall hear in his cloud their song, and the virgins of the race to come shall praise Evirchoma."

Many would be glad to fight and risk their lives like Gaul if they had the hope of receiving the land which contains the valley of birds, the lake of swans, and the glen of "the summer fowl from the distant land."
The bards thought more of Gaul than their successors have helped us to do. The poem finishes thus: "When thou, O stone, shalt crumble into dust, and thou, O tree, shalt moulder with age away; when thou, mighty stream, shalt cease to run, and the mountain spring shall no more supply thy course; when your songs, oh bards, in the dark flood of time shall be lost, and the memory of yourselves, with those you sing, in its vast current be swept away and forgotten; then perhaps may cease to be heard the fame of Gaul; and the stranger may ask, 'Who was Morni's son, and who was Strumon's chief?'"


Return to Book Index Page

 


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus

Quantcast